February 10, 2017 § 3 Comments
I am so over the politics. The stridency. The inflexibility on all sides. I’m ready for a little distraction. Think I’ll tell you a funny story instead.
I settled down contentedly in my obviously new theater-style seat at Crossings Church, a medium-mega church in Oklahoma City as the over 100-voice choir, accompanied by a full orchestra, began to sing. The congregation of 2,000 plus stood as the first notes of the “Hallelujah Chorus” filled the auditorium. I smiled at my college-aged granddaughter on one side, and my daughter on the other with the rest of the family filling the row. Smoothing down my new maxi-length striped skirt, I glanced around me at the congregation of the well-dressed gathered for the Easter morning service. What a great place to be for Easter. This is going to be good!
Sandi Patti was going to be singing. Sandi Patti! I couldn’t wait. This was her home church where she apparently traditionally shares a song on Easter. Bonus! As the well-known soloist began to sing, “Because He Lives” she invited us to stand and sing along with her. As I enthusiastically belted out a few words, loudly harmonizing to, “Because I know . . . who holds tomorrow . . . and life is worth the living . . . just because He lives,” I enthusiastically stood.
As it turns out, a little too enthusiastically.
Then I looked down and saw white. White? I‘m not wearing white.
My skirt with its soft, fold-over waistband was a geometric pattern of definitely black, white, and gray, but not all white.
I sat down fast.
My granddaughter looked over at me wondering no doubt, What’s Grandma doing now? I had stepped on the back hem of my skirt when I stood up. Wardrobe malfunction of the worst kind. It felt like a dream sequence when something terrible happens surrounded by a cast of thousands.
I sat down hard, grabbing for the front of my skirt and adjusted it to cover my white slip. Fortunately, I was wearing a very long jersey jacket that just might have provided sufficient cover in the back. I’ll never know. (There was a balcony up above, so someone may have had an opinion on that.)
The back of my skirt appeared to have landed somewhere in the vicinity of the back of my knees. While everyone in the congregation stood again for another song, I fished surreptitiously around for it without finding it.
All through an excellent Easter sermon I tried to reach the waistband in the back to pull up the skirt, without being too obvious. What am I going to do? Will I have to sit here until everyone leaves? I didn’t have a coat to wrap around me. It was a little hard to concentrate on the sermon knowing that very soon I was going to have to get up. And yes, I prayed. I was getting desperate.
By inching, and probing, and pulling, all so very carefully, I eventually located the back of the skirt. At the last possible moment, at the closing prayer, when all eyes were to be shut in prayer, and the lights were dimmed ever so slightly, I made a bold grab and got the offending back of the skirt in approximate position. Just in time. I stood with the rest with one hand under my jacket holding the waistband in place, and tried to nonchalantly walk out.
What did I learn in church that Easter Sunday? I don’t remember much of the sermon. But I did think of life lessons on being uncovered or falling short. If you need a good humbling, church is a good place for it. God will find you there. And also never leave home without a safety pin.
September 28, 2015 § 10 Comments
My first picnic in the north taught me a lesson I never forgot.
“Want to go downriver to fish camp?” One summer Saturday in Aklavik, NT in 1965, we were invited to go on a picnic with schoolteacher Art Wiebe, his wife Anne and their family and Tommy Ross and his wife Phyllis and assorted children. Eighteen of us arranged ourselves in a large freighter canoe (no life jackets) powered by a “kicker” outboard. Forty-five minutes down the labyrinth of channels of the muddy Peel to Fish Point through a watery maze ringed by spruce, alder and willow bushes, brought us past old fish camps in various stages of disrepair and one smokehouse with the fire still smoking.
Finally, Tommy slid the canoe up on a sandy bank among scrub white spruce typical of the sub-Arctic. We had arrived at Archie Headpoint’s fish camp. A once-white wall tent was perched near a smoky campfire and fish racks held drying strips of salmon. I stepped out of the canoe as mosquitoes churned the air in gray clouds, seemingly particularly interested in getting to know me.
Archie’s wife, a Loucheaux woman of indeterminable age, greeted us. Her black and red flowered scarf hid most graying dark hair and framed a weathered brown face that broke into wide smiles. As we settled ourselves on driftwood logs around a low, smoky fire, she urged, “Have tea … have tea,” in low tones punctuated by frequent phlegmy coughs and productive spitting off to the side.
My eyes went to the chipped and dirty enamel cups that had been piled in a washbasin next to the fire. A black, greasy rag lay nestled in one of the cups. Our hostess industriously sloshed leftover tea out of the used cups, grabbed the grimy rag and proceeded to wipe out the cups in preparation for pouring tea in them.
Lord, help me! I can’t drink that! What if she has TB? About that time she hawked another phlegmy blob behind her.
And then I looked at her smile. Happy for visitors to break the monotony of long days at fish camp, she looked as if she were just as pleased to serve us as any well-to-do matron presiding over a silver tea service.
I had been one of those children with a highly developed gag reflex who was bothered by texture in my food. Any little bit of fat on a piece of beef would engage my gag reflex. Rice got stuck going down. Egg whites were suspicious. I stuffed my peas on the underside of my plate to hide them from my father’s disapproving eye. And my finicky eating habits hadn’t gotten much better.
Mrs. Headpoint picked up a knife and began to slice away on something sitting next to the fire in a cast iron frying pan that looked like a large brown baseball. No fancy cookies for this tea party, we were being served slices of cold caribou heart to go with the tea. Dried caribou meat was piled off to the side in thin strips.
I stopped thinking about myself long enough to realize this was my first big test in the North. Could I eat and drink what was offered? I swatted mosquitoes and accepted the dirty cup of black and potent tea, and the caribou heart slice. As I ate and drank I tasted the smoky fire I was surprised to find the dry meat was flavorful and as delicious as any meat jerky, and the caribou heart had a wonderful smoky flavor and the tea was strong and bracing.
The diffused sunshine of an arctic midnight made long shadows as our motorized canoe ploughed the dark water on the way back upstream the channel to Aklavik. We sang and our songs echoed across the water. Our long excursion ended with a second picnic down past Archie Headpoint’s winter place. This time the picnic fare was more familiar: roasted hot dogs, and tarts and pies.
That day I had my first lesson of “if it’s handed to you with love, eat it.” I would learn and relearn that lessons in our years in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
The next morning I woke itching furiously from one hundred and fifty-eight mosquito bites on my legs and arms, although I had worn long pants and long sleeves. One eye was nearly swollen shut from bites. Above and below the eye the skin was red and puffy and looked like I had been socked in the eye. I felt sluggish and tired, as if I had gotten a shot of Novacaine in my face. Welcome to the Mackenzie Delta before the days of bug spray! Worth it? Yes. It’s always worth it.
copyright 2015 Inger Logelin
February 19, 2015 § 2 Comments
“The world is too much with us,” wrote William Wordsworth.
Lovely as it is, the world is too much with me these days. A pilot splashed with fuel and burned in a cage. The blood of twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians turning the water red in Libya. Villages in Nigeria decimated by Boko Haram, schoolgirls captured and sold off to Islamic warlords, cartoonists slaughtered because they’ve given offense, trains derailed, people just trying to get home killed. A friend of a friend who recently experienced a sudden headache before dropping dead. The marriage of a couple teetering. Children rejecting parents’ values. Siblings who don’t speak.
Sometimes it gets to be too much and I want to escape thoughts of children trafficked, people fleeing violence, in refugee camps, needing hospice, grieving, on life support, homeless.
Then I ease into other ordered worlds, grand elaborations and plots where justice is always meted out, where the bad guys don’t escape the relentless pursuit of retribution, and the good, but flawed, win.
Yes, I read.
My daydreams of choice are memoirs and mysteries, police procedurals, detective sagas, international spy stories. They appeal to my sense of fairness, justice, of wanting the story to end not with a sweet, predictable ending, but with a ringer thrown in, a surprise that satisfies. With justice.
But when the world is too much with me, reading about death is less palatable, and leaves a bad taste. I turned back to an old friend who doesn’t know me at all, Jan Karon, and her new book, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good. The title settled it, and I settled in for a cozy, world-escaping read. I didn’t expect to be undone by the daily lives of the Mitford characters.
I read of Father Tim standing before his former congregation to relate the confession of their disgraced priest who was resigning. Then I came to this passage.
“He felt the tears on his face before he knew he was weeping, and realized instinctively that he would have no control over the display. He could not effectively carry on, nor even turn his face away or flee the pulpit. He was in the grip of a wild grief that paralyzed everything but itself.
“He wept face forward, then, into the gale of those aghast at what was happening, wept for the wounds of any clergy gone out into a darkness of self-loathing and beguilement; for the loss and sorrow those who could not believe, or who had once believed but lost all sense of shield and buckler and any notion of God’s radical tenderness, for the ceaseless besetting of the flesh, for the worthless idols of his own and of others; for those sidetracked, stumped, frozen, flung away, for those both false and true, the just and the unjust, the quick and the dead.
“He wept for himself, for the pain of the long years and the exquisite satisfactions of the faith, for the holiness of the mundane, for the thrashing exhaustions and the endless dyings and resurrecting that malign the soul incarnate.”
As Father Tim wept, I wept, tears running down my face for those “sidetracked, stumped, frozen, flung away, for those both false and true, the just and the unjust, the quick and the dead.” My own list. My own sorrows, and the world’s.
When the world is too much with us I can’t do much about it. But I can “weep with those who weep,” as the Bible says. And I can pray to the One who is the ultimate Somebody Good and with whom we are always safe.
copyright 2015 Inger Logelin
October 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
The last couple of days Esther Joshua’s name has come to my mind, as it does on occasion when I’m still. I don’t know her but I’ve been praying for her by name. Esther is one of the 300 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted way back in April by Boko Haram, the radical Islamist terror group.
I wonder what she’s eating, and where she lays her head. Does she have shelter? Has she been forced to say the words of conversion? I think of my own granddaughter that age and don’t let my mind go to unspeakable darker places. Esther’s name speaks of a queen who saved her people by standing up for what is right, and Joshua, a pioneering commander who wasn’t afraid to take new territory. Does she pray in her darkest times? Does she sense God’s presence? Is she even alive?
The news services have been quiet about the captive girls for months. The outraged campaigns to “storm heaven for Nigeria” and the viral Twitter campaign hashtag #BringBackOurGirls have been stilled. Four months after the capture, about sixty girls managed to escape. News anchors have gone on to reporting the spread of Ebola, the encroaches of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and the wedding of George Clooney.
But while we were looking elsewhere, something is happening in Nigeria. In the last few days, twenty-seven hostages, including ten Chinese workers were freed by Boko Haram and handed over to Cameroonian soldiers near the border with Nigeria, according to the Voice of America’s VOA News. One of the captives Abdouraman Seini, said Boko Haram is running out of food for their hundreds of fighters and captives. And then on October 10, 2014, Christian pastor Rotimi Obajimi escaped from captivity by Boko Haram after nearly ten months. In reporting his escape, the Christian Post (October 17, 2014) said Boko Haram has been “waging war on the Nigerian government for over five years now, have slaughtered Christian pastors and entire congregations in their mission to establish Islamic rule over the nation.” This includes beheading of villagers opposing them. Some 2,000 civilians were reportedly killed this year. In a video, Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram leader is quoted as saying, “We are running our caliphate, our Islamic caliphate. We follow the Quran … We now practice the injunctions of the Quran in the land of Allah.” Cautionary words indeed.
And then today when Esther Joshua came to my mind again, the BBC News says after a month of negotiations, an agreement was sealed between Nigeria and Boko Haram and the girls are to be released. According to the BBC, Nigerian Presidential aide Hassan Tukur said, “They’ve assured us they have the girls and they will release them … I am cautiously optimistic.” No word yet on what concessions the government had to make.
Today I am praying for Esther Joshua and the other approximately 218 other young women, the pride of their families, students who are the future of the nation, forcibly detained by a group whose name means “Western education is sinful.”
We wait. And pray: bring back our girls.
March 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
I should never have subscribed to this magazine, it’s not good for my health. But, I fell for the old trade-your-measly-frequent-flier-miles for-magazine-subscriptions ploy. So, monthly, the revered Conde Nast Traveler shows up in my post office box. As I glance at vacation spots only the uber-riche will ever have a hope of enjoying, I can’t help but compare the “vacations” I’ve been on. Why are thou downcast, O my soul, I whimper.
A featured article in the April 2012 issue that touts “Affordable Villa Vacations (From Under $100 a Night)” gives me hope. Quickly turning to page 111 I find, gasp, not the $100 a night miracle, but a $19,070 a week villa in St. Barth. Why not start at the top? I say. (When, exactly, have I ever said that?) In the magazine’s advice on how to save money they suggest trying to negotiate. Like, who ever negotiates when they can afford $19k a week? Or maybe that’s how they can afford $19k a week.
I flip through fabulous offerings, dream rentals, and the insider’s Madrid, and flip right back into my own life. Where vacations usually mean camping. (Although there have been a couple of fabulo
I have this theory. If you started out camping on your honeymoon, you’ll still be camping when you’re retired. And here’s another one. If you can think of several friends who also started out by camping on their honeymoons, you know you’re hanging with the wrong friends. Not the ones who are going to offer you to join them for a week in their $19k vacation villas.
One of the fabulous exceptions
(To be continued)
© 2012 Inger Logelin
February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
When I saw Mimi Alford confess recently in TV interviews to an 18-month affair with President John F. Kennedy, I couldn’t look away. The attractive 69-year-old grandmother appeared demure, self-contained and gracious. Promoting her book Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath, she faced questioning head on about the sordid bits of her written account, and not-so-veiled accusations from Barbara Walters on “The View” that she was peddling her story to sell books.
Mimi Alford was 19 years old and working in the White House press office when it first happened fifty years ago. As a sophomore in Wheaton College she didn’t rationalize her compliance by using the excuse of her vulnerability or susceptibility to power, nor, inexplicably, did she blame President Kennedy. What she did do was admit her own willingness and, more troubling, her lack of regret.
Emily Esfani Smith in her blog “Ricochet” said, “I wouldn’t say this admission–her willingness–was the most shocking part of the story, but her candor here did take me aback and make me wonder if by coming forward, and talking in plain and honest terms about the affair, should we praise Alford for her courage, or consider her a petty opportunist? I like her honesty and, since admitting that on national television took some guts, I’d be willing to call her brave.”
Random House, her publisher, calls Alford’s book “a new and personal depiction of one of our most iconic leaders and a powerful, moving story of a woman coming to terms with her past and moving out of the shadows to reclaim the truth.”
Since I saw Alford’s 15-minutes-of-fame-interviews, I’ve been thinking of the power of secrets, corruption and power, Alford’s lack of regret, and our society’s need to profit from anything in our personal lives from which one can possibly profit.
And I’ve been thinking of other women Mimi Alford’s age—very soon my age—who may have secrets that once festered inside but have found the grace to confess them to God, the burden bearer, the One who forgives and cleanses. And I’m thinking of other young and mature women who live shadow-free lives by living in the light and not letting darkness burrow into them deeply.
For Mimi Alford, and for all of us, I am praying for freedom from the power of hidden secrets, freedom to forgive and be forgiven, freedom to walk in the light. The words of an old hymn say it well:
“Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness and light,
Jesus I come to Thee …”
William T. Sleeper
ⓒ Inger Logelin 2012
January 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
Snowbound, I settled myself in to read in front of the fireplace, dachshunds curled on rugs at my feet, relishing the warmth. I picked up the book I had bought Dave for Christmas, not sure if it was too much of a man’s read, too much of a soldier’s story to hold my interest. But, a #1 New York Times bestseller must contain more than war stories, I thought. Oh, and the author is a woman, always a good sign.
From the title page I was hooked: Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. The preface plopped me down on a raft in the Pacific Ocean in June 1943. And like the three downed airmen who improbably caught fish and snagged and ate seabirds that kept them alive, I was hooked. I read on with fascination and horror at further revelations in the life of the central character: Olympian runner Louie Zamperini. Inhumane Japanese prisoner of war camps waited for him with treatment that robbed him of human dignity and slashed away at his ability to survive.
The limits of human endurance are played out in scenes of one cruel beating at a time, daily privations, punishing inhumane labor. Those whose minds gave up soon found their physical bodies weakening and giving up. Weakened by illness, overwork, daily beatings, Zamperini hung on with a resilience that seems beyond imaging.
But it was the redemption part that I wasn’t expecting. A life mired in bitterness, with a desire for payback and wracked with violent flashbacks was changed. In a moment. Through the power of God. The same God that had been with Louie when sharks lunged themselves at his sinking raft, and when he heard voices singing as he floated for 47 days seemingly without hope.
We don’t choose the moments in our lives that may require more endurance and resilience than we thought we had to give. We don’t know what we may have to go through in the future. More than a story of the triumph of the human spirit, it is the story of one wrecked, ruined life that endured the unendurable and was redeemed and imbued with purpose.
Four hundred and fifty-seven pages later (yes, I read the notes) I sighed with the singular satisfaction that comes from a great read. And an unforgettable reminder that we can endure the unendurable, live in forgiveness and redeem the past … with God’s help.
ⓒ Inger Logelin 2012